Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Matron of Morpeth Workhouse

The first child of John and Elizabeth Mavin was a daughter named Margaret, born on 29 December 1806 at North Shields. Both John and Elizabeth were natives of Widdrington, Northumberland. When Margaret was just over one years old, she was baptised at Christ Church, Tynemouth. 


Margaret's baptism.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
John and Elizabeth had more children and soon returned to Widdrington. The next mention of Margaret is on 10 December 1836, when she married William Brown at All Saints, Newcastle upon Tyne. Together Margaret and William had three children; Elizabeth, John and Henry.


The marriage entry of William Brown and Margaret Mavin.
Note the spelling - 'Maving'
Margaret's father John died three years later. Now a widow, Elizabeth Mavin moved in with her daughter, who now resided at Morpeth at Grange House Cottage. On 21 February 1852 Elizabeth Mavin died, and soon after William and Margaret became Master and Matron of the Morpeth Union Workhouse, respectively.

William and Margaret seemed to be quite kind to the inmates of the workhouse, which would probably not be expected of the time. In particular the inmates enjoyed Christmas, where they were served with roast beef, mutton and plum pudding. Local breweries often gave ale, and the Board of Guardians bought tobacco and snuff as gifts for the inmates. The children were given oranges. William Brown would decorate the dining room himself, with Christmas trees and other evergreens, banners and Chinese lanterns. Easter was a similar occasion.

The children were taken on annual trips to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. Major Brumell, clerk to the Board of Guardians would pay for the ticket fares. The inhabitants of Newbiggin commended William Brown on the children's "good, orderly behaviour; their clean, tidy appearance; and their fresh, healthy faces.

Sadly Margaret Mavin Brown died on 4 November 1877, having served as Matron of Morpeth Workhouse for 24 years. In her death notice it was said Margaret was "highly respected, and is deeply lamented."
Margaret Mavin Brown's death notice, appearing
in the Morpeth Herald.
Now that Morpeth Workhouse was short of a Matron, the board's next task was finding a replacement. Margaret and William's granddaughter, Margaret Alice Marshall was put forward for consideration. Margaret Alice had helped her grandmother in her role for quite a while before her death. Margaret Alice was called in to a meeting of the Board of Guardians, where she answered a few questions, stating she was only seventeen years of age! The Board knew William Brown to be a responsible Master and with that voted, all in agreement that the post should be filled by Margaret Alice Marshall

To celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, Margaret Alice taught the inmate children to sing the Jubilee Hymn and 'God Save The Queen.' The workhouse inmates were treated to a brilliant dinner, and oranges were handed out to the children. As a treat all those who were able were allowed to go out and take part in the amusements in town. 

In February of the following year, William Brown resigned from his post as Master of Morpeth Union Workhouse. He was fairly old, now in his seventies and could not carry on working to the ability he wished he could. His granddaughter's contract ended when he ceased work, meaning Margaret Alice would have to leave also. 


William Brown's resignation letter.
William and Margaret Alice ended their terms in June, and in July of the same year Margaret Alice married. Her husband was a man named Robert Curry and together the couple went on to have three children. They moved to North Shields, and Margaret Alice's grandfather William moved in with the family. It was here that William Brown died, at around the age of eighty-five. He was buried with his wife, Margaret Mavin at St Mary the Virgin, Morpeth.
Margaret and William Brown's headstone
at Morpeth.